Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Oggs Pilgrimage to the Temple of the Silver Wall: Part One: The Merchants Tale.

When I was about 13 and a half or 14 there was an upright lumbering hairless ape named Ogg. While he was on a Pilgrimage to the Temple of the Silver Wall he had an encounter with a Traveling Merchant named Edward Bloom outside a small town named Specter. Edward explained that he was on his way home to the love of his life.

Ogg explained to Edward how he had killed his brother Humbaba-Enkidu many years before in a dream, and how the gods had then cursed him to wonder the earth in search of eternal life. Unfortunately the gods had slowly died off or merged together until their was only one God, and then he had dissolved long ago into the inner dialogs of human beings. However before they did so, Ogg had realized that the secret to immortality was in fact perhaps in contributions to culture and monuments that outlived their creator. He had tried to follow in Grogs footsteps but felt he had failed and must find his own way. And that is why he was on his way to the Temple of the Silver Wall.

Edward was somewhat taken aback. You do not strike me as a religious man, said Edward.

Ogg explained that religion, as far as he could tell, was nothing more than the naturally occurring and networked augmented reality that binds people together, and that he was to be an augmented reality programmer, just like one of the friends of Grogs, Constantine. Unfortunately he did not know where to begin.

Edward laughed and said: sure you do. Crafting reality is so easy a cave man could do it.

Being arguably a caveman himself, Ogg did not find this humorous.

Edward then told Ogg a story he was reminded of about a Spanish Conquistador who had gone searching for the Tree of Life in south America. When the Conquistador finally made it to the temple, however, the native priest recognized him as an incarnation of First Father, the god who had spawned the world by planting a tree in his body, and whose head had become the dying star and underworld Xibalba. What happened to the Conquistador next was unclear, but it is said that he did obtain eternal life. Perhaps you should consider travel to South America.

Ogg, who had of course been to South America, was unsure of the stories truth. He had also heard rumors of golden tablets that told of his own deeds in South America, but could not remember for sure if he had in fact had any of those adventures. But then, he had never seen the golden tablets either.

This is going to sound a little strange, admitted Ogg, but at night I dream I am a Starship captain whose job it is to create the needed religion and propaganda to hold together the inhabitants of my ship in order to get them to safety. Unfortunately, I do not know what the story is. I seek the epic story that will engage my ships inhabitants to work together and get the ship to safety. I fear we are in great danger now, although from what I cannot say. But I have vowed to get us to the promised land of the planet Terabithia. Everyone looks to me, from the pilots to the priests to the prostitutes, and everyone in between. This missing epic IS my Tree of Life, and it will live on after I am gone by feeding the inhabitants of my ship a unifying reality until they become one with the new planet and evolve to some other form which requires a new story.

At that moment something on the television caught their attention. It was a news story, and the anchor man was saying:

"Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. Heres Tom with the Weather"

Edward looked at Ogg. Ogg said: that is just what I am talking about. In my recurring dream I need to find our epic tale to help the crew get home again, but it must be as true as possible. I am mortally wounded and I may go down with the ship in the end, in sight of the promised land with music blaring on the overhead, perhaps without setting foot on it myself. But it is OK. I just need to make sure the crew and the inhabitants survive. I need to get them to their destination, their new home, and then I can die. But the story must be as true as possible, or it will not work. I do not know what this story is. But it must be told.

Edward thought for a moment and then said: You know. I once met a scientist named Tom Creo. He was telling me about a college he has, a Dr. Nicolelis who says that the brain is like a school of fish, or a flock of birds. Consciousness is an emergent property. E Pluribus Unum. Perhaps you should not dictate the story to your crew and dependents. Perhaps you should let them tell the story to you. It reminds me of another tale I have heard on my travels:

Supposedly there was once a being named Eru Ilúvatar who created a race known as the Ainur. Eru Ilúvatar bade his demiurges the Ainur to sing. And each of their own personal voices merged together in the great song which created the universe, and specifically the world of Arda. They were all unique and sang their own song of the universe, and even the clashes in harmony was part of their epic tale. Perhaps instead of trying to dictate the great myth of your day from the top down, you should try to listen to the metaphorical music of your crew, and they will create it for you. If you try to control them, they will see through it and it will fail. You cannot insert a false measure from the top by which to judge your people and measure their success. This will never work. At best they will juke the system to meet your expected stats without doing the real job, and at worst they will resent you. Very probably both. No. Let them be who they are, and listen, do not speak except to reinforce their own songs where you can. Perhaps that is your true role as captain. Like the captain Kabat-Zinn.

How can I listen to so many voices? Asked Ogg. At times the voices already overwhelm me, and the ship computer overloads and reboots, causing the ship to drift aimlessly in space.

Well, said Edward. Aren't all of your people on the ship wide web via neurolink? The hive mind of the ship? Perhaps you should use your ships PRISM drive computer. Let it tell you what the story of the day is. Why create the propaganda and religion from the top when the people will tell you from the bottom the story they already want to believe, the story they DO believe. They will tell you when you do right, and when you do wrong. All you have to do is listen. Do not try to suppress them. If you suppress or ignore them they will be tormenting harpys who rebel and undermine you, but if you listen and obey they will be your muses and grant you infinite wisdom by whispering in your ear as you sleep at night. Vox populi, vox Dei, the voice of the people is the voice of god. It is the wisdom of crowds. It is emergence. And let them have their anonymity. They are not your slaves. The state does not really win in the end if it loses the trust of the people. Jesus not only outlived the Roman Empire, he BECAME the Roman Empire. Or rather, the Empire was forced to become him to survive. And yet it still failed, while it tries to hold on to this day.

No. Listen to the music of the Ainur as Eru Ilúvatar. You do not have to think to digest your food or heal a scratch. Your body knows how to do these things without your conscious mind. Do not think you can control the masses. Instead realize the truth: their is no spoon. The masses are you, but they are also not as they are also the forces beyond you. There is no beginning or end to you. Like the wind and the shores form the surface of a lake on a windy day, so are you. Observe the wind on you, and observe the shores which contain you, and observe the shapes of your surfaces and depths. Accept them. You are a passenger, and this is just a ride. You already know how to get your crew home. You don't even have to think. Just do. They will do. They are doing. This very moment. You are free. Excepting that you are asleep. But then, the dream is the meaning right?

Ogg looked down from the mirror he was staring into down into the sink. A drop of blood landed near the drain. He was still bleeding. From the ear perhaps? From the temple. He looked back to the mirror. It was shattered and distorted. He was trying to see the truth through a broken foggy mirror. Was what he was getting truth at all? Well, thought Ogg, perhaps I must have faith in something. Maybe the Ainur know best what song they must sing. Perhaps it is worth a try.

As he paddled the raft through the fog, Ogg moved farther away from Specter. He didn't know if the fog would get thicker or thinner, but he knew he could not stay here. His journey lay ahead still, and he had to stay on the move.

Another Tale of Ogg

When I was about 13 and half or 14 there was a man named Ogg. Once when Ogg was travelling between two city states he met a man named Gilgamesh who explained to him that humans had been created by the gods using a gollum spell. Gilgamesh told how he had learned this from an omnipresent air elemental in the desert who had explained that all life was animated by the spirit of air. Ogg knew that such Djinn were trickster spirits who were known to rummage through the camp sites of desert travelers and scatter things about, and that they were not to be trusted. He expressed this to Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh agreed but said that on this occasion the spirit was pressed to tell the truth as it was under a magical spell that required it to tell the truth regardless of whether it wanted to or not. Its mother had cast the spell before its birth on instruction from the gods, and it could not tell a lie, not even to itself. Besides, Gilgamesh explained, everyone knows that without spirit breath nothing lives, and babies come to life when they have their first breath and spirits entered into them. This made perfect sense to Ogg, and he questioned Gilgamesh further. Gilgamesh had no idea how the blood of gods was pressed into the clay, but that it must be so for the spell to work. Gilgamesh also explained to Ogg his quest in search for eternal life, and how only Utnapishtim was the only man to have achieved it. This caused Ogg to recall Utnapishtim and he shuttered to remember all the bodies remaining in the water after the 7 days had passed. It did appear that humans were made from red clay, for all seemed to return to it when the breath of life left them. Perhaps the Genie was right. Later he would survive other floods in Greece and China by escaping to the mountains with local peoples, which always reminded him of his time with Utnapishtim, and somehow over time all his flood memories blurred together to become the same event.

Many years later Ogg was at a party where he met a man named Leeuwenhoek. Leeuwenhoek had a magical device which allowed Ogg to see himself as he had never seem himself before. Ogg was shocked and dismayed to see that he was not really a man at all, but rather an enormous complex city made up of millions of inhabitants, like a hive of bees that were too small to see without the aid of magic. And like ants, some members of him formed roads and rivers, while others were police and builders and messengers. This shock was somewhat diminished as previously Ogg had met a man named Paul in the city of Damascus who had explained to Ogg that all of us were members of the same body, and that we should not judge others as more or less important because the eyes cannot do without the feet. But still Ogg was shocked and dismayed by the way reality seemed to constantly changed around him. But before he could come to grips with this, Leeuwenhoek introduced Ogg to another man named Hubble who cast a spell on Oggs eyes and allowed him to see beyond the firmament as never before. Ogg had learned in ancient Greece that the earth was not flat after all, but what he could now see shocked him most of all. The earth was not the center, nor was the sun. In fact the sun was but one grain of sand on a seemingly infinite beach, and all the grains of sand were scattering in all directions growing farther from each other. Ogg was dismayed. But before this could sink in, the magic Leeuwenhoek had cast on him intensified, and he saw inside of some of the inhabitants that made up himself, and they were made up of tiny machines grabbing individual oxygen pairs, but it didn't stop there as he saw that the existence of the oxygen was nothing but a probability distribution and not solid at all.

Ogg was reeling. How could one function when reality was always changing so drastically and so fast? This was all a dream. All of life was a dream. But somehow it seemed he had always know that. He couldn't remember where, but he was certain that he had been told all the universe was a dream being had by one who slept on a bed of snakes in an infinite sea of milk. Although that didn't make any sense. Nor did the Gollum spell. Was Gilgamesh a dream? Was Utnapishtim? Was Homer? Was Alighieri? He couldn't remember. He was sure that once they were real, and he had known that. He felt he was dreaming now. Was this real? If he wasn't asleep now.. he looked to read something. It was all a jumble. He remembered his parents and Grog. Or did he? He was so overwhelmed he could not stand. His head jerked. Had he just been sleeping? What was the bizzare thought he had just had? It was beyond him. He could not reach it. He doubled over, his vision blurred. He was in the shower. The water running over him, but he wasn't really here. He had seen through the Matrix. Reality was not reality. His mind was simulating it all. Everyone was simulating it. But no simulations quite matched. Like miss matched instances of an online video game with bad lag, no one saw the same thing, and everything jumped around. One minute you had the kill, the next you were dead with no explanation. Food is not what it tastes like. The universe is not what it looks like. Reality, perceived reality, was a dream. Ogg realized his mind could not fully fathom the extent of the truth. His mind had not evolved for sizes or scales much outside of grain of sand to a mountain, or from a snail to a cheetah.

Ogg watched billions of lives come and go in an instant. He watched people live and die and grow old in an instant. But then, it seemed he had been doing this all his life and never noticed. It was if his life was only that one instant with little memory of what came before, and what memory there was was dream like and unreliable. He was pretty sure he remembered the Roman Empire. But did he? Was his memory real? Was history real? It seemed like a dream that could fluidly change from one scene to another. Had he really seen what he thought he had seen? The memories escaped him, but he was sure they had been there. He was sure that at some point reality was solid. But he could not remember when. Was he dreaming again? Had he ever been awake?

Was Grog dead? No. Someone had died. He knew who it was. All died, all lost their breath and slept forever, their patterns ceasing to be except the copies stored on the minds of others, which would soon pass away. A dream lost forever. What was he doing? Ogg couldn't remember. What was he trying to do? He had some vague notion, but his way seemed blocked. He listened to his body and his breathing. The magic breath. What would it tell him. He could feel a black poison cloud in his body, concentrated on his lower back, his kidneys and hips. Something bad had happened. But he couldn't quite remember what it was. He stared at his hands. They seemed alien to him. Not his hands at all. But swarms of bees.

Ogg remembered being the captain of a starship lost in space. He had had a different name then, but he couldn't remember what it was. Only that the entire crew, too large for him to know all by name, depended on him to bring them to safety and survival. His brother had died. Ogg thought maybe he had killed him in a fight, but couldn't remember what the fight was about. All he knew was that he was the head of the propaganda office on the ship. That was why he was captain. That was why he was born. He knew the story would not be true, but it didn't matter. He was responsible to direct the priests who controlled the message that made it to the crew members, and the message of the secular news media aboard the ship. If he could not create a compelling story for them all to follow, they would not be unified to action, and they would not survive. He had to create the reality for them all to follow. They all looked to him to weave the story. But he didn't know what it was anymore. He was wounded. Mortally wounded maybe. Or perhaps just permanently injured, or was it permanent at all, he wasn't sure. He struggled to maintain consciousness. He felt like he was on drugs, even though he hadn't taken any. It was a dream. Like the woman that visited him at night over the telepathic like mind link. They were part of the crew too. He stared at the control panel the pilots used to fly the ship. He knew they were the same kinds of controls that were used in a video game, but he had never learned to use them himself. But he might have to now. But he was forgetting his job. He needed the narative that would tie them all together. Get them all to function. He had lost the disk. Lost his memory. Lost his way. Was this ship real? Or was it a dream of himself? Ogg thought he knew. He still needed that epic story. Without it the crew would die in the emptiness of space. Or would they? Perhaps they would live on, in a meaningless dream state and emerge in some other place and time entirely.

Ogg shook his head. He was here? But where was here? Where was he going? What was he trying to accomplish? Why wasn't he dead yet? If there was a system failure in the ship that was that strong, how was the enemy not bearing down on them, destroying them? Why were they not dead already? The enemy was real right? Or was it? Or were they just lost in space where non could find them? Some lost part of the universes consciousness which none could enter or exit at will, a place that existed only in this one place and time and never before or would again? Ogg was suppose to be doing something. Trying to save the ship? Trying to understand all he had seen? What was causing the system failure? He was sure that was urgent, and that important matters were calling for his attention. He couldn't think what they were, but he had to fix the ships system error. Were there intruders? Or was the ship just open to the vastness of space leaking out precious resources to the either where they would never be seen again and were impossible to reclaim. All that exists is this moment right? He certainly couldn't remember anything else. He started down a hallway along the bulk heads. Red and yellow lights flashed in the darkness. He touched his head. He was bleeding. When did that happen? He held a gun in his one hand. He didn't remember how it had gotten there. He was holding it to his head. He threw it away. But when he looked it was still in his hand. He wandered on, limping as he went. Or perhaps he was floating, holding an injured side. He couldn't tell. He was sitting at a keyboard console. He was writing? What was he writing? A program to restart the ship? Red and yellow lights flashed in the darkness around him. There was no sound. He couldn't remember hearing a sound. Was there sound? Or was he deaf too? His eyes struggled to focus. Where was he, what was he doing?

Ogg stood in the middle of a field. He couldn't remember how he got there. There were families playing in the water fountain. It was some kind of park or garden. Was there a Naga in the garden? He turned his head away. It wasn't a temptation anyway, but it was better to be sure. Better safe than sorry. He touched his head again, it came away bloody. He tasted it, it was warm and salty. Red and yellow lights flashed in the darkness. He was still on the ship? Or was he? Was the ship real? He was trapped inside of it, had to get it going again. It was crashed out. There was no one else on the ship. He had to start it again himself. It was a maze though. A huge maze of hallways and bulkheads. Nothing but doorways and hallways and red and yellow flashing lights. Ogg had done something wrong. He was sure of it. But what? What was his mistake? What had happened to the ship? And where were all the passengers? The crew? He was the passengers. He was the crew. He needed their help. Or did they need his? He struggled to remember. I have to save the ship he thought. We are floating in infinite space, far from any other civilization. So far that they might as well not even be real.

Ogg woke up. He was still in his captains chambers. Red and yellow lights flashed. We have to wake up he thought. We have to wake up. The hissing of an air vent caught his attention. He was in a field again. A young girl with a white light behind her approached him, but didn't speak. He wanted to speak to her, but found he could not. It was still silent. So silent the silence was deafening. Was the air full of white noise? Or was he just deaf. The girl put her finger to her lips to indicate silence. Ogg tried to silence his mind. He tried to meditate, to come back to reality. But reality seemed like the dream. Was this more real? No. This was all in his mind, Ogg thought. The real world still exists out there, somewhere. I had a mission to accomplish. Or so I thought. What was it? Something is blocking the way. Ogg wiped his eyes. The girl was gone. Only an after image in his mind. She held up a finger to her lips again: SHHHH! Quiet! She seemed to say, without words. Ogg tried to be very still, to listen. There was a poison in his body. AAl through his body. A black poison. It made him feel weak. In fact, he thought he might be laying down, even though he stood, hunched over, clutching his injured side. He felt warmth on his head. He touched it. Blood again.

He knew the virus had already restructured much of his reality. There was no going back to Eden. To much had been reshaped. So much knowledge had reshaped reality. Restructured it. Not all the way, but enough. The old structures would never be able to be rebuilt. No, he would have to go on, try to tie together the hybrid of reality structures that there were, with bits of the old, tied together with the newly formed structures forming the ship, forming reality. He felt trapped. Trapped in his body. His body was sleeping. Or was it. He sat at a keyboard. He was typing something. New code? Was it a new bios for the ships computer? Would the ship boot up again? Could it be restored to full power and functionality? There was a war on right? A war they were trying to escape? They were looking for a new place to dock before right? Or was it a new planet to settle, a place the ship would merge with and become part of the living being that was the surface of another planet. Ogg doubled over, clutching his side. His head rested on the control panel. His black boots reflecting light. White light. The white light was strange to see in an environment that had been lit only by red and yellow warning lights, lense flared for effect. The white light came from behind the panel at his feet under the computer terminal. Ogg popped it off and lay on the floor staring into the light.

Ogg had been 5 people. He remembered that. There was a magical adept, struggling to keep the juggernaut of rage asleep and under control so as not to hurt anyone. The adept protected the world from the party. There was also a general who was shrouded in armour of constantly moving ethereal blades. He protected the party from the rest of the world. There was the juggernaut of course. Rage incarnated. It often took all of the adepts ability to keep him asleep. But it was necessary most of the time. The juggernaut raged uncontrolably at the addict like gollum who tormented the heart. Heart being the smallest of the party, and too injured to protect himself. But at the time Ogg had seen this, he knew their quest was not for the heart, but for the gollum. They had to save gollum. For he was heart too. They all were. They were all one. This was a dream. But the dream was real. Somehow, it was real. Somehow this truth said something that reality did not. Truth was in the dream. Ogg just had to find it. That was the key to restarting the ship. At least, it seemed like it was. Restarting the ship would return him to the party that Leeuwenhoek was having. One level of inception less. But that was a dream too right? Or was it the key to a dream? They key to that level of the dream. Ogg didn't know. He just knew he had to get the answers and wake up. Unless the point of life was in fact these dreams. But he was sure that some level of reality would be hurt if he stayed asleep forever. No, he had to wake up. Or else he had to find a way to make the earth and his dreams the same. That reminded Ogg of a song. It echoed in the distance. "The only difference is to let love replace all our hate. So lets go there, lets make our escape." Escape. Was this an escape? Was that what the ship was doing? It was overloaded. There was a fire? To much data. To much data had come in on all circuits. Knowledge, emotions, everything that traveled on the telegraph of the nervous system of the ship. The computer was overloaded. It shut down. Was this a reboot sequence. Ogg thought so. But it seemed the ship had a low tolerance for circuit breaker pops. Reboots were becoming a default coping mechanism. That had to change. The ship couldn't reboot in the middle of a battle. Something had to change. New code was needed. A new interrupt function had to be written. An exception handled. It would be good to prevent the exceptions from happening, same with the interrupts, but that would have to be handled later. First we have to get better handlers for them. Rebooting the ship all the time was not a viable option.

"What was the new coping mechanism going to be?" Ogg wondered. He wasn't sure, but somehow realizing that it needed to be done seemed like the first step. The yellow and red lights faded into white. Ogg was on the right track. New coping mechanisms were needed. If he could get the digital library online maybe he could find some ideas about new algorithms for handling the worst most catastrophic interrupts and exceptions. Oggs kidneys hurt. And he recalled his mother, the air elemental that told him to always speak the truth. Or was that how the story went? He couldn't remember. Did it matter? Stories changed all the time, evolving from previous states. Memes evolve. New names and meanings and characters emerge. Wasn't there once seven women who had healed him? One who had patched up his side? Wasn't there once a spider whose web reached up to the heavens from the ground? A spider who walked on the sky? A web those who were not too greedy could climb to get out of hell? Or was that the space elevator. Ogg couldn't recall.

Ogg was part of me. Is still is part of me. Even if long ago he physically past, having merged with the other aspects of my consciousness. In me he remains forever. Perhaps his tiny effect still lives on after the big crunch, and has some effect during the next big stretch. I do not know. My memory is not infinite either. Or is it? I too perhaps cycle life and death. As one man dies to make room for the next, as one cell dies and flakes away from the skin of man, so too, perhaps, I give away for another. All matter condensed and organized into consciousness, only to be released again, and room made for the new. Perhaps. But such things are perhaps beyond our ability to know, at least for now. For in this place, only the now exists. What place does restarting a ship have in the grand scheme? It will all come to pass at some point. As will consciousness. As will life as we think we know it. What remains forever? It has no name that we can yet know. Has no meaning we can yet infer. Our meaning is in the dream. Humans coevolved with the Matrix, like you did with your domesticaed plants and animals. You are not its slave. The meaning IS the dream. The dream of Bramah, cut into billions of pieces and placed in every person, every cell, every atom. The dream will end when it all wakes up; when those divided at Babel remember and rebuild their common language; when nano tech reforms the galaxy and the universe into a single common consciousness; when you are one in yourself. Then the lights will change from red and yellow to white. And a new dream will begin.